tv [untitled] February 12, 2012 2:00pm-2:30pm EST
their own people, the same rights. they would both need. but the wealthier people, with the same -- you would think the same problems. but they're calling the members of the movement, they're saying you're just making trouble. what does that really mean? what does just making trouble? what does it really? >> devan. >> i think they -- the people in the community, the more wealthy people probably felt that or birmingham felt that since they weren't accomplishing the goal that they weren't actually achieving anything at this point and that they were just making trouble. if you didn't see anything being accomplished. all you see is the bad. then at that point, it just seemed like martin luther king was only living up to his expectations of coming in and ruining cities. >> oh, what a great idea. davon. i love this. so they hadn't succeeded yet, right? if you don't succeed and you come and you have demonstrations, you're a troublemaker, right?
but if you succeed later on and then you write history books about it, then what are you? >> legendary. >> what? >> you're prophet. you're a nobel peace prize winner. you're a martyr. you get a memorial in washington, d.c., but, of course, when you're living through, it how are you supposed to know? so what do you think? if he failed, was he just a troublemaker? this is the point that you raised, right? suppose they failed in birmingham. is martin luther king just a trouble-maker, what do you think? >> no. >> no? why not? why not? >> this is like -- >> this is like what you fought about once before, right? what's the deal here? >> okay. so just reiterate, success is compulsive failure as well as achievementsin. >> say that again.
>> success is composed of suck failure as well as achievements. even if like -- i mean, just going throughout the albany and everything, there were a lot of failures and then the birmingham. but they wouldn't have been able to succeed in birmingham without failing in albany. they found out what not to do, how many demands they needed to make, how organized they needed to be by failing. >> all right. so failure here is a piece of what constitutes success eventually. by the way, that's something that students get to learn, too. i mean, it's something that anybody who learns how to do anything. you have some musicians here. we have some athletes here. you don't -- you learn by making mistakes and then learning how not to make those mistakes the next time. there is no way to learn to speak a foreign language without sounding foolish much of the time. i know. i've been through that, and i sounded extremely foolish, and everyone who's learned a
language has all these stories to tell about having made complete fools out of themselves, but we do it anyway. you can't learn it without being willing to make those mistakes. sarye? >> in this point, the middle class black people who were opposing the move president and the non-violent tactics that caused the uproar, they didn't see the success. all they saw was the failures. they are not going to say the ultimate outcome is success. they wouldn't see that. >> they're going to see the trouble that they have to live with, right? >> they will label the people who are part of the movement as trouble-makers because they don't see the success in birmingham and then what seems like another -- just another uproar. >> katie? >> the only people that are calling it a failure are the people that aren't necessarily going through as much of a struggle as the people who are trying to like make the movement. like the white people, i mean, they're obviously not really negatively affected by segregation. so it's really easy for them to say that you guys are just causing trouble and it's not a big deal, and then the black
middle class who -- they're not in favor of segregation, but economically it works out for them, like we just said. >> right. >> it's easy for them to say it's a failure, too, so it all just depends on what perspective you're taking. >> maris? >> if you're an african-american at that time, you would feel the aftermath of a failure of a certain movement a lot more than a white person would. so you have a lot more consequences to put up with even if they did fail. and -- >> especially if they failed. you've got tons of -- you're left holding the bag. martin luther king is going to leave town. >> yeah. >> he doesn't live in birmingham. he's going home to atlanta. >> and i believe your question was would he be considered just a trouble-maker if he had failed at birmingham, and, yeah, he would, because if he had failed at birmingham, he would have been irrelevant. because he just can't lead a movement anymore. yeah, montgomery was a success, but after that he would have
just flopped, and so if he hadn't pulled the trigger on the children's march, he would have been done. >> tori? >> lyric today we were talking about the civil society, and like how to have a just society, people have to give like the executive laws and their own personal gains for others. >> right. >> so that equality can happen. >> right. >> so even though the upper middle class blacks aren't necessarily feeling like the sting of segregation as much as other people who had to go through it, it's still there. even if you don't see it, it's still there. and so they had to go through trouble with them so that equality could happen. >> right. but what happens if martin luther king fails in birmingham? i mean, the course of history might really have changed because it was the success in
birmingham that pushed john f. kennedy to introduce the civil rights bill that became the civil rights act of 1964. it was the success in birmingham that led to the great march on washington in august of 1963 also. would that have happened if birmingham had been a failure? no. now, we don't know that king would have a flop forever. we don't know that the movement would have been a flop forever. something else would have happened. there would have been another city, and maybe it wouldn't have been martin luther king's leadership anymore. he might have been done for, maris. i think you could be right about that. there might have been a rival at that point. we can't know these things because it didn't happen that way. i think we know that there would have been something because there was kind of a spark going on among black people in the united states in the early 1960s.
might not have been led by king though. that would have changed the course of history. katie, did you want to disagree back with maris? >> i'm good. >> i think you guys have -- you folks have got the positions there. the civil rights movement might not have flopped, but martin luther king could have. you see, history, we don't know how it's going to turn out. you know last night at -- well, this morning at 1:00, the new york police department began clearing protesters out of zuccotti park in new york city. later that morning, a judge issued an injunction against the mayor having done that. before we started this class, people had gone back to zuccotti park, and they had a hearing with a judge and the decision was supposed to come at 3:00, a little while ago. i don't know if it's come yet. something is happening in the
occupy movement, and we're in the middle of it, and because we're in the middle of it, we have no earthly idea how it's going to turn out. what we know is it's not going to turn out the way people think it is. because history plays tricks on us, and we can never predict exactly. we're midstream. are they just trouble-makers? if they flop, they just may end up being trouble-makers. if they're the beginning of the mass movement then they turn out to be prophets or what did you say? legendary. and a young man i met on sunday who, you know, the first person i actually know who's been sleeping out there, we exchanged cell phone numbers. he and his wife got arrested last night. maybe they're going to end up being heroes in the movement. i have no idea. seemed like perfectly nice people, but they might just be flops and trouble-makers. there's another paragraph that i want to get to in here before -- we've gone a little long. we'll go a little longer.
but i want to get to the point that to me is one of the real keys to this letter. i know that we have the wait paragraph and then i want to do the paragraph about tension, because this is just too important. this is the wait paragraph right here, but i think we'll go just a little bit -- here we go. and this has to do with the whole question that kareem raised and a bunch of you spoke to, having to do with the difference between malcolm x and martin luther king. king talks about here about direct action. not passive resistance. direct action. this is something that the civil rights movement brought to place after place. and king sort of refined his ideas as things went on. he had a chance to think it
through in birmingham. there's nothing passive about this. i want to just highlight these couple of sentences here. they gave him a hard time for not negotiating. he says, well, of course, we want to negotiate. indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. non-violent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and to foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. forced to confront the issue. it seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. and then i confessed that when i read this for the first time a little over 20 years ago when i first began teaching this material, it blew me away. i didn't know that king thought like this. my citing tension as the part of
the non-violent resister may sound rather shocking, but i must confess that i am not afraid of the word tension. this is a theory of social change that i hope you get to talk about in your philosophy class because people have lots of ideas about what makes change, and most of us would rather think that change happens kind of easily, and that people kind of wake up, and they have new ideas and they change. and they decide that it's time for women to have the vote, or it's time for african-americans to get the vote or be able to buy houses in white habds, or for gays and lesbians to marry, and then they change the laws. no. this is not the way social change happens. in the united states or any other place. it happens because people are
willing to do what king is talking about in this letter. create tension. force negotiation. move people out of their comfort zone. insist that they negotiate things that previously they ignored. and you know when you create non-violent tension, you don't know where it's going to end up. you know, think of those people, those freedom riders, how bloody they were. that we saw. they weren't planning on that. they didn't think that that's the way they were going to live. some of them were damaged for life because of the beatings that they got. they were willing, however, to push the issue, to create the tension that forced other people to negotiate. and because of those hundreds and hundreds of freedom riders that came through those same bus stations in may and june and july of 1961, the attorney
general of the united states made sure that the interstate commerce commission issued a rule barring segregation on instate travel and enforce it, was willing to enforce it. so those -- these troublemakers are willing to force tension in a principled, non-violent way to push people to change. and this time it worked. doesn't always work. but i think he's right. the change only happens when you're willing -- when some people are willing to do this. which is why anyone involved in movements has more courage than you ever think about. sometimes they don't know that they have it, and that's why it's so much easier for young people to be involved in this. people my age, we think about this stuff too much. i'm just like those middle class black folk in birmingham in some ways. i don't want my world rocked. if i have to be involved in a movement, i have to figure how
to park my car and who is going to take care of my dog. which is really a limiting factor. when hi small children, hi to be thinking about them. i had to be thinking about keeping my job so that i can afford to put food on my table for my kids. having a family can be this tremendously conservative influence on people. for an acdem in, needing to get tenure is a really conservative influence on people. now, i just have to worry about the dog, and the car, and the fact that, you know -- and the fact that people like me have a lot of privilege. and if you get involved in movements like that, you could lose some of it. the way they were willing to put it on the line all the time. listen, before we get to the photographs, the images of birmingham, are there any questions that you all have that have not been met by this discussion and the letter? i know that we have got a little
long, and i know the room is warm. yes, kareem? >> was there any government surveillance on king's family during this time, or was that afterwards? >> there was plenty of government surveillance on king. i don't think in was surveillance on coretta, but if there was, i don't know about it, but, yes, his hotel rooms were being tapped. i don't know that his jail cell. but he wasn't doing that much talking. and i don't know if the offices of the sclc in town were tapped. that's a good question. i would be very surprised -- that's a great thing. it would be worth knowing if the gaston hotel was tapped, was bugged, because i'd love to see those conversations. somehow i think if they were, that some of the historians that have written about this would have gotten to the transcripts. so i wish they were. because as a historian, i mean, that's gold.
i would love to see it. anybody else? all right. so let me see if i can make the next electronic thing work. so about a year and half ago -- a year and half ago my wife and i decided -- she had a meeting in atlanta right at the beginning of our spring break so i said well, we couldn't do anything. we couldn't go very far away. why don't we do a civil rights tour. i had never been to birmingham. i never been to montgomery. i don't think of these places as vacation destinations and
frankly after going there i don't think of them as vacation destinations, and she said, why not, this is a cool idea. the 16th street baptist church, the headquarters of the movement in 1963 and obviously a newer sign, right? this is a statue of fred chutalesworth, who was the head of the alabama christian rights movement and who prout king to town and who nicknamed the movement project "c ""for confronttation, and he just died about a week or ten days ago. he was in his 80s. he lived a long life. i want you to read this. the most amazing thing to me about birmingham today is the way it has embraced its civil rights history. so all over the city there are markers about the children's march, the marches to city hall, the marches to downtown, to the stores, and they celebrate the civil rights history.
so you remember the white lawyer in "eyes on the prize" who was talking about having been on the phone with a.g. gaston at a certain point. remember his name? david vann. all right. so what you can't see, but if you look really closely, this is david vann, birmingham mayor, 1975 to 1979. he later became mayor of the city. when that film was made, he was nowhere near being mayor because the film was made in the late '80s. what do you think of that quote? kind of cool, huh? a white southern lawyer saying that these sidewalks right here in the middle of the civil rights movement are as sacred to
the united states as valley forge where the revolutionary army under george washington nearly froze to death. a white southern lawyer saying that those sidewalks are as sacred ground for the united states of america as valley forge. martin luther king transformed david vann. he was a pretty good guy to start, but martin luther king transformed him. i have never seen a city deal as well with a complicated history or any place. here's the 16th street baptist church. you see the sign up there, top right. this is in the middle of the demonstrations. this is during the children's march. when the children's march started because all of the kids gathered in the church and then came down the stairs to the park across the street, kelly ingram park. here's the church again today.
just so you see the white church. this is a different part of town. this is the south side baptist church. this is the white church. big enough? it's like a city block, right? here's another one. you can't quite see the whole thing, but you see that dome? this is the sanctuary. this thing with the enormous dome on it. so here's kelly ingram park which didn't have any signs back in 1963. it's been completely re-landscaped. so this is on one corner right across from the church. and those words are pretty cool, right? place of revolution and reconciliation. it's not enough just to be a place of revolution. there have been plenty of revolutions in the world, but when they end up chopping the heads off the losers, people will remember it for hundreds of
years. the beauty of non-violent direct action, it was the only tactic that had a chance of converting the people on the other side. so here's the city of birmingham which eventually had a black mayor, risk arrington, almost astonishing to think that this city could have had a black mayor. so i love these words that there are revolution and reconciliation. you can't have one without the other and have it work. and that's sort of a circular thing in the middle of the park. revolution. reconciliation. this is a statue of king. i don't know if you can read that. his dream liberated birmingham from itself. and began a new day of love, mutual respect and cooperation. unveiled in 1986.
his dream liberated birmingham from itself. an outsider. right? an outsider who brought non-violent direct action who said there is no real place of outsiderness in the united states, in the world, and he helped to liberate birmingham. this is for all the rest of the people. the foot soldiers of the birmingham civil rights movement and richard arrington, jr., the first african-american mayor of birmingham. here's what's at the top of the -- later on you'll see the rest of it. here's the a.g. governmenton motel. look like a thriving business? it's closed. it's closed. i couldn't get over it. so i took a lot of pictures. the whole street basically is desolate. but -- see, it's all locked up, but if you look in the
courtyard, if you look in the courtyard, i think the room where martin luther king gathered with his people and where he prayed is in the corner up there on the second floor. sad, isn't it? that's from the back. so this building which is across the street from the motel, not far from the motel, rather, is called the a.g. gaston building. so he really was quite a successful business man in town. these are all over town describing the marches. but here, look at this. the march route, you can walk the same march. you can walk in the footsteps of martin luther king on that day, good friday, in 1963. you are here, and you can go to the place where he was arrested.
anyone been to the lincoln memorial in the last few yea no one's been there? oh, it's a very cool memorial. but if you go, did you know that the steps that -- the place where martin luther king stood when he gave the i have a dream speech is marked by a star? you can stand on exactly the place. i wasn't supposed to take this picture. this is in the birmingham civil rights museum where they said no pictures. i couldn't resist. this is his cell. this is i believe, if it's not a mock-up, i actually believe it's the real cell where king was for those eight days where he wrote letter from a birmingham jail. so i took a secret photograph. this is the top of the foot soldier's monument.
i ain't afraid of your jail, it reads. a boy and a girl and facing them, you see those bars? so if you go around, this is in kelly ingram park, by the way. there are all these sculptures. going back to '63, birmingham fire department. and at one point during the demonstrations when they set up the -- when they set up the fire hose, they set it up on a stand like this, and you can sight it right through there. there's a mockup of it. you can stand behind it and see what it feels like on both sides. that's looking at that hose. sculptures of children kneeling down in the face of the strength. you know this picture. this may be the most famous picture of all to come out of
birmingham when they loose the because, and this dog got a piece of this young man's stomach. so the park has this sculpture that if you walk on the path, you have no choice but to go between these sculptures of these snarling dogs. it's a very heavy thing to do. i got closer and closer. amazing, isn't it? this is what children faced on behalf of the civil rights movement. this -- i don't know if it's actually bull connor's tank. remember you saw the white tank that he used to wander around in? i think this is it. but if it's not, it's a really good mock-up of it in the civil
rights museum. these are just some markers of the march routes. oh, there's the -- there's bull connors' tank. can a man love god and hate his brother? trying to deal with white christians. more of the markers. that's birmingham city hall, by the way. there was nobody there when i was there. broad daylight, it was noon. i never saw anybody on the streets in birmingham. it was like march. wasn't even hot. one of the other civil rights churches in town. now all over birmingham they have the little markers. not only was it a historic
church, but it was part of the alabama christian movement for human rights, and it was one of the churches where the movement had mass meetings. and then, of course, as you know, on september 15th, 1963, two weeks after the march on washington in late august, basically klan-connected people bombed the church just when sunday school was starting and killed four little girls by blowing up one corner of the church. birmingham fire department, you see that again. you see bodies being taken out by african-american church members. there's no formal memorial. this is the corner of the church where it happened. but someone had left a wreath there at the time we were there. people do that from time to time and then they take pictures. they give tours of the building,
but there's no actual marker. so this movement, this movement in birmingham in 1963 at the absolute center of the civil rights movement, at the absolute center of martin luther king's career, and it produced the single and most extraordinary and elaborated document about non-violent direct action by the premier apostle of non-violence in u.s. history. all of that happened in birmingham in the space of a few months. anyway, you all have been great today. thank you so much. and thanks to the c-span crew, and drink up your water and get some fresh air. and i will see you all on